RICHARD CARPENTER v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION, SC 18197

Judicial District of Tolland at Somers

 

Habeas; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Whether Petitioner's Conviction of Reckless Manslaughter Following Reversal of his Murder Conviction Deprived the Petitioner of his Right to a Trial by Jury. The petitioner was convicted of murder in connection with the death of an eighteen month old baby. In State v. Carpenter, 214 Conn. 77 (1990), the Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction, finding that the evidence adduced at the petitioner's trial was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the specific intent to cause death. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court with direction to modify the judgment to reflect a conviction of the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of General Statutes 53a-55 (a) (3), noting that the petitioner would not be prejudiced by such modification because the jury's guilty verdict on the murder charge necessarily included a determination that all the elements of 53a-55 (a) (3) had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The petitioner brought this habeas action claiming that his conviction of manslaughter in the first degree on remand was unlawful in that he had been deprived of his right to have a jury determine whether every element of that offense had been proven. The habeas court denied the petition, finding that it had no authority to disturb the Supreme Court's order and rejecting the claim that the petitioner's appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance in failing to seek reconsideration of the Supreme Court's decision. The petitioner appeals. He claims that, as the crimes of murder and reckless manslaughter involve mutually exclusive and inconsistent mental states - intent to cause death for murder and recklessness for manslaughter in violation of 53a-55 (a) (3) - the jury's guilty verdict on the murder charge was not based on the factual findings necessary to support a conviction of manslaughter. The petitioner claims, therefore, that the Supreme Court's direction that he be convicted of manslaughter deprived him of his constitutional right to a jury determination that every element of that crime had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The petitioner also claims that the habeas court wrongly determined that his appellate attorney made a reasonable tactical decision in not challenging the Supreme Court's decision to remand the case with direction to convict on the lesser included offense. He contends that, at the time the Supreme Court rendered its decision, reasonably competent counsel would have been aware that the jury's verdict on the murder charge did not determine that all the elements of manslaughter in the first degree in violation of 53a-55 (a) (3) had been proven.